Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate is all I did the week before the race. Record high temperatures were expected for Sunday. 90 degree temps arrived and it left an impact on all runners. Out of the 25,000 registered for the LA Marathon only 21,957 finished the race.
The entire experience was amazing. I trained my long runs with friends that I met who share the same crazy running habits via Instagram. Saturdays I would meet at 5 AM with Alex, Emma, Heather get our miles done. Each run was filled with laughter and silliness which made the miles fade away. The experience of training with these runners for a marathon and completing those 26.2 miles has formed amazing friendships.
Before I start race details, I’m going to back up to the race expo and packet pickup. The excitement building up to the race day memories are ones I want to hold on to. I know those of you that don’t follow runners on Instagram won’t get this part of my crazy, but the expo was a chance to meet up with runners who have encouraged and motivated me. We all chatted for a bit and wished each other the best of luck.
The expo was also an opportunity for some crazy fun-filled with laughter as we checked out all of the different vendors. It gave me a chance to stock up on some energy chews for the race. For those of you that enjoy shopping at the race expos, I learned that waiting to attend the last few hours is a bonus because all of the race clothing is listed at 50% off.
Okay now on to the race day experience…
I was up at 2:45 in the morning to get myself ready. I got dressed, tapped up my knees, glided body parts, and ate a light breakfast. I was out of the house by 3:30 to start my drive. Alex and I were in Santa Monica by 5:00 am. Parking and catching the shuttle over was part of the pre race fun. It was neat to see so many people gathered together to run a marathon. These were not runners doing a 10K or half marathon, they were all in for the full 26.2.
Once we got to Dodger Stadium we met up with Heather and Emma and had about an hour of time to spend meeting up with other fellow runners. The excitement and pre race jitter was really starting to set in by this point. As we got into the shoot for the starting line, ‘God Bless America’ was played followed by ‘I Love LA’ on repeat. The sun was rising and last-minute pictures of friends were taken as we prepared to take on this journey together
The crowds were really tight at the start of the race and it was hard to stretch out our legs. Slowly after a few miles we found our groove and the crowd of runners started to spread. Heather and I ran the first few miles together. We talked about not pushing ourselves too fast so we wouldn’t burn up our energy too quick. At a water station I lost Heather in the crowd. I continued on with Alex and Emma for a few miles. We hit a hill that I knew would burn me out, so I decided to walk it. Emma being the beast she is left me and Alex. She said she would meet us at the top. Alex and I made our way and then continued running together until I needed the restroom. It killed me standing in line for the porta potty, but when a girl needs to go a girl needs to go. I caught up a few miles later with Alex. He had found his running zone and was comfortable in it. We got separated a few miles later so I continued on my own.
Half the fun of the race was enjoying some of the landmarks along of course. While running I began emotionally checking in and seeing how my body was feeling. I made sure that I kept pushing fluids. When landmarks did come along I couldn’t help but stop and capture the moments.
About mile 14 I stopped and put on my knee brace. I could feel that the KT tape wasn’t giving me the needed support. I stretched a bit and continued on my way. A few miles later I needed the restroom again, so I started keeping my eyes open for the porta potty lines. As I came around a corner waving at me was Emma. She was waiting for Heather who was using the Starbucks restroom. I told Emma to wait for me and I ran in to use the restroom too. The shocked look on Heather’s face was priceless. I asked if she wanted a frappuccino. We quickly laughed and continued on with the race.
Once we passed the gates entering the VA Hospital I started screaming with enjoyment. I knew we were close to done! The weekend before we ran the final six miles of the course so we would know mentally what the finishing miles would feel and look like. We three ladies decided that it was too hot, so we chose to walk for a minute. We took some time to refill our water bottles and sip on some Gatorade as we continued on our way. When we exited the VA hospital and came back to the city streets we picked up our running pace.
When we got back to running, the heat was really started getting intense. As a mental distraction, we laughed and joked around for the next few miles. I started singing to the girls the tune that was currently on my running playlist. I don’t know if the runners around us appreciated hearing me sing… “big big booty, yes, you got a big booty,” but it kept my girlfriends laughing. When we reached mile 23 I had to stop and take a picture with the mile marker sign. Room 23 is my classroom.
By this time Heather’s ankle was screaming in pain and Emma and I were both feeling the weight of our exhaustion. The three of us decided we were going to suck it up and keep going. We might not have been going fast, but we were going to cross the finish line running together.
We even made sure that we pretty ladies in pink looked good for the marathon photo camera as we were passing by the photographers. Moments like this are what have bonded us as runners. At the end of the race we took a few minutes to enjoy some post picture fun and to collect back together with other friends and family.
In my mind I was wondering how my buddy Alex was doing. I didn’t want to text him and break his concentration. An aggravating injury from one of our last long runs came back to bug him. Alex ran into a fellow Marine veteran who is caring of the United States flag. To help out his friend, Alex carried the colors the last few miles of the marathon. That nagging injury gave Alex the opportunity to carry the colors of our God blessed country cross the finish line.
Every race that Alex runs he has a picture of Corporal Plascencia on his back. They served together in Iraq. The two would talk about the things they would do when they got back home to the states. Plascencia was driving to work to start a new job and died on his way in a car accident. The memorial that Alex carries of Plascencia with him on each and every run brings up amazing points of conversation for Alex on every race. Other runners who knew Plascencia have actually recognized his picture and share stories. This act of nobility is one that I find extremely impressive and moving.
So now Alex has completed marathon number five, I’m done with number three, Emma conquered number two, and Heather can proudly call herself a marathon runner as LAM was her first full. With these amazing friends, we continue celebrate our victory and look forward to the mental and physical challenge of the next race.
So if you made it this far I hope you enjoyed reading all the crazy details about my LA Marathon running experience. I look forward to doing again. We had the courage to start, strength to endure, resolve to finish, and together we conquered 26.2.